Massage Therapy Ethics and Boundaries

You've heard about it before haven't you?

People who perform "massage" and claim to be massage therapists but are simply performing illegal and illicit services while claiming to be a therapist.

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Professional massage therapists have taken the time and spent money on their education and pass rigorous state board exams to obtain that title.

Establishing clear massage therapy ethics and boundaries is a prerequisite of a prosperous massage and bodywork practice. For any massage therapists who are trying to help people understand the benefits of massage generally, it is important to understand your ethical obligations as well as boundaries that govern your work- for your clients and yourself.

Ethics are sets of moral principles or determining between what we believe is wrong or right. Personal ethics can be influenced by our values, principles and morals shaped by society, religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds.

Boundaries are limits between unacceptable and acceptable behaviors. Boundaries are the cornerstone and foundation of a successful, healthy massage business. Boundaries range from the way you dress as a therapist to the way of you converser with your clients during a massage practice. It includes the products you use, the gifts you receive and give and the way you communicate with your clients on and off the table.

Ethics and boundaries guide professional massage therapists to choose the right and correct path for treating clients. As a professional massage therapists establishing clear ethics and boundaries benefits clients, your careers, and your profession.

Massage Therapy Code of Ethics

The following are principles and ethics rules that professionals massage therapist should uphold and adhere to in the course of their work.

  • They should represent their qualifications honestly, including their professional affiliations and educational achievements and only provide services which they are qualified to perform.
  • ​Professional massage therapists should have sincere commitment in providing highest quality care to clients who seek their professional service.
  • ​Should be open minded by acknowledging contraindications for and limitations of massage and bodywork and also refer their clients to most appropriate health professionals.
  • ​Provide treatment when there is absolute reasonable expectation it will be advantageous to the client.
  • ​Accurately and clearly inform health-care practitioners, clients and the public of the limitations and scope of their discipline.
  • ​Should be open minded by acknowledging contraindications for and limitations of massage and bodywork and refer their clients to most appropriate health professionals.
  • ​Have a principle of conducting their professional activities and business with integrity and honesty, and respect inherent worth of all clients or people.
  • ​Should consistently improve and maintain professional competence and knowledge, determined for professional excellence through continued education research and training, regular assessment of personal professional weaknesses and strengths.
  • ​Refuse or avoid to unjust discrimination against clients or any other health professionals.
  • ​Professional massage therapists should respect client’s right to treatment by voluntary and informed consent.
  • ​Under all circumstances, Professional massage therapists should refrain from engaging or initiating any sexual activities, sexual behavior or sexual conduct involving a client, even if the client is one attempting to sexualize the relationship.
  • ​Professional massage therapists should safeguard confidentiality of clients’ information, unless there is court order, disclosure is required by law or need for public protection where disclosure is absolutely.
  • Respect the client’s autonomy which involves respecting client’s boundaries.
  • ​Take into account and respect the client’s right to modify, refuse or terminate treatment, in spite of prior consent given.
  • ​E exercise the right to decline treatment of any person or any part of human body for just and reasonable cause.
  • ​Provide treatment and draping in a manner that ensures the privacy, comfort and safety of the client.
  • ​Refuse and avoid any benefits or gifts which have intentions of influencing treatment, referral or decisions that maybe purely for personal gain and not for client good.
  • ​Keep away from any influences, activity, or interests which may be in conflict with the Professional massage therapist obligations to act in the best interest of his profession or the client.
  • ​Lastly, Professional massage therapists should follow all guidelines, codes, policies, regulations procedures and requirements promulgated by institutions put in place to control therapeutic massage and Bodywork.

Desirable Traits that Massage Therapists Should Have

· Courage

· Faith

· Intelligent

· Honesty

· Humility

· Competence

· Kindness

· Empathy

Unethical Behaviour

As we strive to practice ethically there are incidences that indicate we are ignoring the ethics put in place. It is unprofessional for massage therapists to practice unethical or incompetent behaviors. The offenses include:

  • Inability to exercise sound professional judgment
  • ​Sexual abuse of clients
  • ​Chronic lying
  • ​Substance abuse
  • ​Practicing without a license
  • ​Paranoia, severe depression or other mental disorders
  • ​Theft from business or client.

Client Rights that Help with Ethical Decision Making

The client has the right to the following:

  • Privacy
  • Assured that his condition and his medical record will be kept in confidence. It's also the law.
  • ​Informed consent before every treatment
  • Be treated with respect and dignity
  • ​Be treated with respect and dignity
  • ​Expect competent and reasonable care.
  • ​Examine and receive an explanation of his bill.

If the massage therapist respects client rights, ethics will be respected and both the practitioner and client are protected.

Massage Therapy Boundaries

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The Ethics of Massage Therapists should adhere to five types of boundaries. They include:

1. Physical Boundaries include anything from how the massage rapist set up his/her practice to proper draping and touching as well as to understand client’s preferences and any other contraindications that may exist.

2. Social Boundaries is one of the cross boundary that include talking and dual relationship between therapist and client. Therapist being very clear about his/her professional versus personal role is very important.

3. Emotional Boundaries is also cross boundary which includes transference and countertransference. Transference occurs when client makes professional relationship personal while countertransference occurs when professional is unable to separate the therapeutic relationship from personal feelings surrounding the client. This requires therapist’s to be aware of both themselves and their client feelings and know how to deal with every emotional situation.

4. Sexual Boundaries. when the sexual boundary is crossed, it is quite evident, serious, and damaging. The repercussions of crossing the sexual boundary by either party are strong. Sadly, sexual misconduct is number one claim to insurance companies against massage professionals.

5. Professional Boundaries this include observing jurisdictional laws and regulations, attaining required education and training, maintaining personal competency , considering hygiene, proper attire, record keeping , communication skills, and cleanliness. All this help define individual professionalism and scope of practice.

Repercussions of Violating Ethics Code

Violating an ethics code won't in an of itself cause anything to happen. However, many items listed in the massage therapist ethics code are in fact breaking the law in many states. Here's a short list of consequences that may happen:

  • Receive a complaint filed against the therapist
  • Lose income and clients.
  • Risk having their license getting revoked.
  • ​Lose membership in professional associations.
  • Subject to lawsuits.
  • Lose respect as an ethical health professional.

Importance of Observing Boundaries and Ethics

If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything thus understanding your business ethics and professional boundaries is critical. Observing firmly the boundaries and ethics will ensure our business and personal decisions becoming much easier and your goals reached so much faster.

Having a clear picture of your ethical and professional boundaries keeps you moving in the right direction. This is because no time is spent fretting about if you’re doing the right thing or not.